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Transcult Psychiatry. 2014 Jun;51(3):299-319. doi: 10.1177/1363461514536358.

Rethinking historical trauma.

Author information

1
McGill University laurence.kirmayer@mcgill.ca.
2
University of Michigan.
3
Haverford College.

Abstract

Recent years have seen the rise of historical trauma as a construct to describe the impact of colonization, cultural suppression, and historical oppression of Indigenous peoples in North America (e.g., Native Americans in the United States, Aboriginal peoples in Canada). The discourses of psychiatry and psychology contribute to the conflation of disparate forms of violence by emphasizing presumptively universal aspects of trauma response. Many proponents of this construct have made explicit analogies to the Holocaust as a way to understand the transgenerational effects of genocide. However, the social, cultural, and psychological contexts of the Holocaust and of post-colonial Indigenous "survivance" differ in many striking ways. Indeed, the comparison suggests that the persistent suffering of Indigenous peoples in the Americas reflects not so much past trauma as ongoing structural violence. The comparative study of genocide and other forms of massive, organized violence can do much to illuminate both common mechanisms and distinctive features, and trace the looping effects from political processes to individual experience and back again. The ethics and pragmatics of individual and collective healing, restitution, resilience, and recovery can be understood in terms of the self-vindicating loops between politics, structural violence, public discourse, and embodied experience.

KEYWORDS:

Holocaust; Indigenous peoples; Trauma; genocide; social determinants of health; structural violence; transgenerational transmission

PMID:
24855142
DOI:
10.1177/1363461514536358
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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